On the campaign trail in Dunedin North with Victor Billot

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Posts Tagged ‘Helen Clark

Heckling and hugs for Aunty Helen

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Martin Kay of the DomPost gives his account of proceedings at the University.

Prime Minister Helen Clark could have been forgiven for thinking she had stumbled into an Alliance Party convention rather than a rally organised by her own side when she arrived at Otago University’s Union Hall during a flying visit to Dunedin.

As she took the stage, scores of students waved Alliance leaflets and the boos from some sections of the crowd – though drowned by cheers from most – must have had her fearing a trap.

But there was no reason to worry. The leaflets had been handed out by Dunedin North Alliance candidate Victor Billot, who had perhaps optimistically hoped they would be studiously read.

Instead, they were used as fans to beat the stuffy heat that had built up as the 1000-strong crowd waited for Miss Clark, who had to charter a plane from Auckland after fog closed her connection through Christchurch.

Undeterred, Mr Billot tried to get his message across verbally.

“How many fees did you pay, Helen?” he heckled, as she highlighted Labour’s tertiary education policies.

Miss Clark brushed it off – “settle down, settle down” – but Mr Billot took the stage during question time to lay down a challenge for an immediate two-minute debate on free education.

Fortunately for her, the crowd booed him even more loudly, and gave a roaring cheer when she declined the offer.

Miss Clark was also occasionally booed and heckled, but the reception was overwhelmingly positive from most – after all, she’d just announced that Labour would introduce universal student allowances.

TNX 4 my shoes Aunty Helen, one sign mysteriously said.

It was hard to know whether it was cynical or genuine, but the woman holding it leaped on to the stage and asked to have her photo taken with Miss Clark.

A plainclothes policeman in the guard detail looked faint, and not from the heat, as other students rushed forward to get their picture taken hugging Aunty Helen.

Written by Victor

October 13, 2008 at 6:22 pm